are two main things that hold people "back"
when trying to train their back. The first is
that they can't see it when they're training it.
This makes it harder to really focus on and properly
work AND, since it's not a "mirror muscle,"
it tends to get lower priority in the overall
second thing is that people can't FEEL the back
muscles actually doing the work. And if you can't
feel the back muscles working, chances are, they're
not getting worked very effectively.
you can't fix the first problem of not being able
to see the muscle while training it without having
a double mirror setup that allows you to see your
back in the mirror. It's rare you'll find a gym
that has mirrors on two opposing walls - they
try to avoid the "funhouse" effect.
you'll just have to take it from me that it's
CRITICAL to put a lot of effort into back training
- MUCH more so than it is for chest training.
Your pecs don't hold your spine up...
we CAN address the point about feeling your back
working. One of THE most effective exercises I've
found for really teaching you how to feel your
back working is the Stiff-Arm Pushdown.
an isolation exercise (defined as a single-joint
exercise, in this case, the shoulder joint) for
the latissimus dorsi, a.k.a. the "lats,"
which is rare. And even though it IS an isolation
exercise for the lats, the long heads of the triceps
are involved in the movement as well. The long
heads of triceps perform a similar function in
bring the arm down towards the waist and can't
be removed from the movement due to their anatomy.
Stiff-Arm Pushdown is also one of the ONLY back
exercises that doesn't involve the biceps in some
way, making it a great teaching tool for helping
you feel what it's like for your back to work
without relying on bicep assistance.
How To Do Stiff Arm Pushdowns:
perform this exercise, all you'll need is a high
pulley and an attachment (bar or rope).
a moderate weight on the pulley - you won't use
a heavy weight for this exercise as it's all about
feel. If you go too heavy, you'll have to resort
to momentum to move the bar and that will defeat
the purpose of the exercise.
both hands on the bar (overhand grip) about 6
to 8 inches apart. Take a big step back, bring
the bar back with you. Lean forward so your torso
is at about a 45 degree angle. You can have your
feet set together or be in a lunge position -
whichever is most comfortable to you.
your abs tight and an make sure there is an arch
in your lower back. In order for your lats to
function properly, the lower back MUST be arched.
the start position, your arms are in an overhead
position and slightly bent but stiff. The cable
weight is pulling up on your arms so your lats
are getting stretched.
begin the movement, pushing the bar directly down
and around in an arc. DO NOT bend your arms!!
Keep them locked into that slightly bent position.
All the movement should occur at the shoulders.
the bar all the way down to your thighs, squeezing
your lats hard the whole time.
at the bottom then let the cable pull the bar
back up, keeping tension in your lats.
As you come to the
top, dip your upper body down a bit to increase
the stretch on the lats.
breathing with this exercise, you want to take
a BIG deep breath at the stretch (top) of the
movement. Inflating your lungs maximally at the
top will increase the stretch on the lats and
help you feel the lats working. As you push the
bar down, exhale through pursed lips (like you're
blowing up a balloon).
exercise can also be done one arm at a time with
a single cable handle as well.
for moderate to higher reps with this exercise
- it's not a power-based exercise but more a "feel"
exercise that you need to really keep form tight
on. This exercise will give you a strong burning
sensation in that lats because they don't really
get any break in the tension throughout the movement.
to use this exercise as part of a pre-exhaust
style of set, working it immediately before another
exercise for the lats such as a variation of chins,
rows or pulldowns. Do a set of 8 to 10 reps of
the Stiff-Arm Pushdown then go right to the exercise.
I can promise...you'll feel your lats working!
see, because the Stiff-Arm Pushdown only hits
the lats and leaves the biceps untouched, when
you move to the other exercise for back (e.g.
chins, pulldowns or rows) the lats will already
be "pre-exhausted" and the biceps will
help keep the movement going, pushing the lats
a great technique and very effective if you have
trouble feeling your back when you train it.
the Stiff-Arm Pushdown a try in your next back
workout. If you've never done a true isolation
exercise for the back before, it'll be a nice
change of pace and help you get a lot more out
of your back training.
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